At Kula, we’ve been developing responsive websites for well over two years. Back then, your options for taking your site mobile were to either build a platform-specific app for the App Store, create a mobile specific presence such as a .mobi site, or do nothing and allow the user to try to navigate a site designed for desktop browsers. I’m going to avoid the mobile web vs app argument for now (although, I’m going to be going head to head with Halifax’s best mobile app shop at an upcoming conference–watch for it!).
This is more about why a responsively designed site is the best option for virtually every situation when compared with a custom mobile site.
1. You only need to maintain one code base. The same templates that are used for the desktop site are used on the mobile site. Yes, this can make these pages a bit heavier in terms of file size and complexity, but the HTML markup is largely the same for a responsive site as it would be for a site meant purely for the desktop.
2. Enter your content once, display it everywhere. One database or content management system serves all users. No need to maintain two copies of any content, ensuring that your site is always up to date, no matter what device is viewing it.
3. It’s possible to optimize images so that they look good and download quickly no matter what network’s bandwidth you’re using. This is a big argument of the mobile-site-only camp. The fact is, image compression technology is quite good, and sometimes one medium-sized, well-optimized image can suffice for both large and small devices. Plus new solutions are being developed for appropriately serving individual images optimized to each platform. From a content management perspective, this also saves responsive site managers a great deal of time because they only need to deal with editing one image, not three or more.
4. You’ll always get the appropriate version of a site when following a link shared by someone on social media. You know what I mean. When you tap a link from Twitter on your phone and you’re presented with the desktop version of the site, even though you know that site has a mobile version. The trouble is, most sites do a poor job of detecting the device and don’t automatically redirect to the correct URL. Even more egregious is when you’re on your laptop and you click a link that was posted via a mobile device, and you get the mobile version of the site, complete with wall to wall text that is impossible to read and images that have been scaled to 320 pixels and are now stretched across 1500 pixels on your widescreen monitor. It’s a positively awful experience.
5. URL parity is maintained no matter what device you’re serving to. This is essential for search engine optimization. To Google, this link: kulapartners.com/my-link and kulapartners.mobi/my-link are two completely different sites. Why compete against yourself for search ranking? With responsive web design, your URLs are the same no matter what platform you’re on.
We’ll be expanding on some of these items in upcoming blog posts and a webinar as well. Click the link below to learn more.